Racing: Akehurst takes on best: A trainer of the old school prepares to give a master class, while the Dewhurst Stakes winner receives a glowing end-of-term report

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The Independent Online
IF Admiral's Well wins the Cesarewitch at Newmarket this afternoon, Reg Akehurst will once again receive the double-edged acclamation that he is a masterful trainer of handicappers. If Urgent Request could take tomorrow's Grade One Rothmans International at Woodbine in Canada, the description might finally be amended, plainly and simply, to masterful trainer.

The 'handicapper' label does not trouble Akehurst. 'If that's all you've got to train, that's all you're going to win with,' he said this week. 'That's what most of mine are, and I make the best of it.' Yet success in one of North America's most valuable contests would provide undeniable evidence that, given the right raw material, Akehurst can make as much of it as any of the big-money trainers at Headquarters.

Urgent Request will be joined at Woodbine by White Muzzle, with John Reid taking over in the saddle from Yutaka Take, whose ride on the colt in the Arc two weeks ago generated ferocious abuse. There is no reason to believe that Take has an ungenerous bone in his body, but the Japanese champion could be forgiven for hoping that Reid turns the wrong way at the top of the straight.

As for Akehurst, the pounds 51,000 on offer to the Cesarewitch winner would not go amiss, of course, but Admiral's Well possibly faces a more difficult assignment than Urgent Request. Thirty- two runners will set off on this slog and many will have been prepared throughout the season with this race in mind. Admiral's Well, by contrast, has been busy since April and was a close second to Hasten To Add in the Ebor, so the latest offers of around 4-1 are not difficult to resist.

Smart punters, of course, will resist altogether, but the Cesarewitch is one of those races that demands an interest. The short-list runs to about 25 names, but Ivor's Flutter, who made his seasonal debut in mid-September and won his only subsequent race, has clearly been laid out for today's race and should repay each-way support at around 25-1.

A punting opportunity not to be missed is the Champion Stakes. With eight runners and a hot favourite in Hatoof, the bookies will be offering 6- 1 bar one and paying three places, so an each-way bet on one of Hatoof's seven rivals is almost mandatory.

La Confederation, who won the Sun Chariot Stakes last time, seems an obvious choice, but David Loder, her trainer, said yesterday that 'it's a big step up in class and if we finish in the first four I'll be delighted'. Grand Lodge may not stay on this demanding track, and Muhtarram has had a long season, so Dernier Empereur may hold a stronger chance. He is proven at the trip.

The bitter breeze across the Heath yesterday was a sure sign of the approach of winter, and so too is the Charisma Gold Cup card at Kempton today, which marks the return of Large Action, last year's Champion Hurdle third, in the Captain Quist Hurdle. Oliver Sherwood reported his gelding to be improved and well earlier this week, but his opponents include two of last season's best novices, Corrouge and Jazilah.

Success for the latter would further advertise the breadth of his trainer's ability. His name? Reg Akehurst. And no, it isn't a handicap.

(Photograph omitted)